April 2 1814: Cochranes’ Proclamation

On April 2 1814, Vice-Admiral Alexander I.F. Cochrane , on the second day as the commander of the Royal Navy in British North American Station, issues a proclamation that did not mention slavery, but was intended to encourage African American slaves to run away from their masters plantations on the Chesapeake tidewater. During the course of the war many slaves were to escape. The proclamation read, in part, as follows:

PROCLAMATION OF VICE ADMIRAL SIR ALEXANDER F.I. COCHRANE, R.N.

By the Honorable Sir ALEXANDER COCHRANE, K.B. Vice Admiral of the Red, and Commander in Chief of His Majesty’s Ships and Vessels, upon the North American Station …. &c, &c, &c.

A PROCLAMATION.

WHEREAS, it has been represented to me, that many Persons now resident in the UNITED STATES, have expressed a desire to withdraw therefrom, with a view of entering into His Majesty’s Service, or of being received as Free Settlers into some of His Majesty’s Colonies.

This is therefore to Give Notice,

That all those who may be disposed to emigrate from the UNITED STATES will, with their Families, be received on board His Majesty’s Ships or Vessels of War, or at the Military Posts that may be established, upon or near the Coast of the UNITED STATES, when they will have their choice of either entering into His Majesty’s Sea or Land Forces, or of being sent as FREE settlers to the British Possessions in North America or the West Indies, where they will meet with due encouragement.

Given under my Hand at Bermuda, this 2nd day of April, 1814, ALEXANDER COCHRANE.

By Command of the Vice Admiral, WILLIAM BALHETCHET. GOD SAVE THE KING.

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